Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Digital Painting Canvas Installation Review

Last Friday, Kyriaki, Paul, Nicola (3rd year students of i-media) and I organized a small tour around Liverpool Museums to experience interactive pieces and research how installations are used for educational reasons. The World Museum of Liverpool held an interactive exhibition named “eye for Color”.Packed with hands-on exhibits and interactive displays, this exhibition explores the endless ways in which color shapes our world.
The most challenging piece for me was the "The Art Machine". I could describe it by using just three words - digital painting canvas. “The Art Machine” is consisted by a big projection screen looking like a painting canvas, three projectors made like shooting devices and a touch – screen display. The "shooting" projectors, each representing one of the basic colors, red - blue - yellow, have buttons on the sides allowing the user to aim, choose the size of the brush and shoot color on the canvas. There are also buttons that give the option to spin around or clear the canvas as well as to save the creation. Then using the touch-screen display one can email it or see the creations that have been saved in the past.

This interactive exhibit is made for young children. Watching it you understand, from the very beginning, how to interact with it. The big screen made up as a canvas automatically makes you think that is meant for drawing on it. The projectors’ use also comes natural to the users, as especial the young children, are used in playing with the gaming machines using buttons to aim or shoot. The process is enjoyable and mixing the 3 basic colours on the canvas the children learn about colour mixing, how you make green for example or that if you put more blue the colour becomes darker. Experiencing the game was fun even for us, the “big kids”. A big colour war began among us on the digital canvas!

Also the feed back you get when interacting with the installation is quite good. Every time you aim you can see where you aiming at or how big is your brash. The sound effects also are matching the size of the colour you shoot setting up the mood for the user. Another asset that enhances this user friendly application is way the buttons are made. Big bright colour buttons with matching icons make, for every kid, their use comprehensible. Based on the target group, the choice of a touch screen display is very effective. Children are use to touch things and enjoy to explore using their hands.

According to Norman’s theory the conceptual model of that system could be defined from:
a. Its affordances which are the fundamental properties that determine just how the thing could possibly be used. For the installation that is being described the virtual canvas affords to be drawn. Also the system has been made from appropriate materials as is meant to be used by young children. The shooting device image of the projector affords to project light images - colours - on the canvas.
b. Constrains which are the ways used to limit the possible actions that a user shouldn’t do. In this case, the canvas is lighted in the center giving a circle light – shadow effect that sets the barriers for aiming on it. Also there are some semantic constraints as the projectors are pointing to the centre of the canvas so the user knows where to aim from the very start.
c. Mapping that describes the relationship between two things. In this case a natural mapping is used taking advantage of physical analogies and cultural standards which lead to immediate understanding.

Concluding I would say that this educational installation fulfils its goals to entertain along with teaching young children. It’s appropriate and well designed for the target audience as it is easy to use and to understand as well as fun to play with. It’s an enjoyable experience that should be an example for many museum installations.

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